SPECIAL REPORT: The deadly dangers of distracted driving - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: The deadly dangers of distracted driving

(WXTX) -

Everyone is guilty of it, and it needs to stop.

The national focus for years has been accidents and fatalities caused by drunken driving; however, distracted driving can be just as dangerous, expensive, and lethal as being drunk behind the wheel.

"Personally I have been behind vehicles that I had thought someone was driving intoxicated and when I get up alongside them, I find it's nothing more than texting while driving, " explains Captain Tom Stoffer of the Auburn Police Division.

Distracted driving is not only limited to cell phone usage, but covers a wide range of activities that can draw a driver's full attention away from the road, such as putting on makeup, operating a radio, or simply eating your lunch.

"The average time frame of distraction is four to five seconds and on a busy highway at 60 miles per hour, you can drive the length of a football field in four to five seconds," says Sheriff Jay Jones of the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Birmingham native, Olivia Kolar, is thankful to be enjoying her freshman year at Auburn University.

The math education major and active member of the AU Singers knows firsthand the horrifying dangers of distracted driving.

"I was going from one place to another that was really only a mile away, but for some reason I typed it into my GPS and it took me about ten miles out," states Kolar

Between the misleading GPS on her phone and stress of getting lost, Kolar became totally distracted.

"I was looking down at my GPS and it was really confusing how the streets were and I didn't even realize that there was a flashing red light that was a stop sign and didn't even really notice it and I went right through it and collided with another woman and it completely totaled both of our cars," explains Kolar.

Thankfully, both drivers walked away from the accident with only scratches, but Kolar knows the outcome could have been worse and that nothing is worth taking your eyes off the road.

"It's so weird how it makes you such a wary person," says Kolar, "If I am driving with friends and they're playing with the radio or doing something else, I ask them to please focus on the road. I think it's just something that after you've been in an accident, it feels like you're going to get in a car accident all the time."

Currently the law in Georgia bans texting by all drivers and also prohibits teens from using cell phones while behind the wheel.

Alabama was one of the last states to pass a texting ban that went into effect August 1, 2012.

However, between the two states less than 2,000 citations have been issued due to the fact that police are more willing to educate drivers than ticket them.

"Right now with the new law a lot of our officers are doing nothing but the educational process. When you see it, pull the vehicle over, explain to the driver how dangerous it is and let them go with a verbal warning," states Stoffer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day, more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 people are injured in crashes that were reported to have involved a distracted driver.

Alabama Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, played a key role in having the texting ban passed last year and is proud of the progress it has made.

"At the end of the day we have an obligation to keep our citizens safe and I think that what this bill is accomplishing," explains Hubbard.

However, citizens believe stricter laws banning all types of distracted driving need to come into effect and soon. 

Here in Alabama, lawmakers are taking it one step at a time.

"I think that all depends on whether this works or not. Instead of having any kneejerk reactions and go say we need to go ahead and move this up, we need to give it time and see if it works. Right now law enforcement tells us that it is working. So we will continue to moderate it," says Hubbard.

"I honestly don't think it will every leave me, it was so traumatizing. There are so many ways to be distracted while driving," states Kolar.

These new laws will be watched closely by both advocacy groups and the insurance industry that will all benefit from laws that will lead to greater safety on the roads.

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